Sometimes, when doing a spread, the cards don’t quite answer the question you’re trying to ask, but the question you’re secretly asking in your subconscious. It might not even be a question — it might just be a general concern that you have. I had an experience like this yesterday with my XIII deck, and I think it would be useful to describe it here.
I have been having a lot of trouble with executive dysfunction recently, and trying to do work for this highly academic program that I am in. Much of it is related to the way that brain processes time — or rather, the way that my brain completely fails to process time. I have also felt horribly drained of energy recently, and I hoped that I might get some clue for how to fix the problem from my cards. I chose the XIII for my reading, because it’s blunter, and gets right to the point. I also relate to it a little more intuitively than my Azathoth deck, despite it’s use of plain pip cards for the non-court minor arcana. The spread I used is a useful one I got from Little Red Tarot, and the cards XIII laid out for me were as follows.
1) What I need: Ace of Cups, reversed.
2) What the program needs: Three of Wands.
3) What I have to give: Nine of Pentacles, reversed.
4) What I must let go: Ace of Swords.
Quite a spread. I admit to having a miniature heart attack when I saw the Ace of Swords laid in that position. The swords are my suite. My court card is the Knight of Swords. My immediate thought was that the cards were telling me to give up on the program — advice I would probably have ascribed to XIII’s bluntness and tendency to jump to extremes when giving readings, and ignored. It’s impossible for me to drop out this late in the game, anyway, so I pushed that aside and decided to approach the interpretation more methodically, the way I usually do.
The reversed Ace of Cups puzzled and disturbed me a little, so I set it aside for now. The Three of Wands — enterprise, trade, entrepreneurship, hard work, expansion — was easy to read. The program is heavily focused on us proposing our own research, on being self-directed. This is not something I had to be told.
The Nine of Pentacles is self-reliance — but only when upright. Reversed, it shows a lack of conviction. The card only makes sense in conjunction with the Three of Wands, I suppose. It would be a perfect fit if I needed enterprise and hard work, and could give self-reliance, wouldn’t it? Ultimately I read the reversal as a sign that I need to give these things for the program to work for me — and if I cannot give them, I need to look into dropping out — there’s my Ace of Swords, what I must give up if I cannot perform to standards: my reason and intellect in academia, which would be necessary for such a program. The thing is, I don’t want to drop out. So the cards have told me to just suck it up and do the work. There’s a reason I think of the XIII as the ‘Just Do It’ deck.
What of the reversed Ace of Cups? I think that it is telling me that what I thought I needed — wanted, really — from this program are not what I actually need. I was feeling like I wasn’t being given enough guidance, and I felt isolated, like I could not connect with the mentors and administrators of the program on an emotional level. But that isn’t what the program is about. I was being stubborn about seeking something the program was not supposed to give me, and perhaps that might also be what the Ace of Swords was about — my stubbornness, and to stop being stubborn, a trait I strongly identify with in the Swords suite.
The questions the cards answered are not exactly what I was asking — but they were probably what I needed to hear.